This month, Notre Dame’s newest class arrived on campus in profound fashion. Impossible to miss, they can be seen strutting down the sidewalks on all six wheels, waving their bright orange flags and bearing delectable surprises inside of them. That’s right — the Grubhub robots are here, and their presence has ignited controversy amongst the Notre Dame community.
The deal with Starship Technologies, the world’s leading provider of autonomous delivery services, was initiated because “there was a need to make all units accessible to the community,” says Luigi Alberganti, senior director of campus dining. “Now, anyone can order from our restaurants and have it delivered to their preferred location,” he says.
The robots have certainly provided students a convenient new way to curb their hunger from any location on campus. If you’re in the middle of a five-hour-long study session in Hesburgh, or you simply can’t make it to the dining hall during that awkward break between classes, the Grubhub robots might just be your dream come true.
Additionally, for those of us who don’t have the luxury of being just a short walk away from the nearest dining establishment, this new technology is incredibly useful.
“As someone who lives in a dorm that’s on the outskirts of campus (Johnson Family Hall), I love the robots! I’m especially impressed by their ability to say little phrases like ‘Go Irish’ after they deliver my food,” says J-Fam resident Grace Steffen.
The Grubhub robots have certainly dazzled us with their special features and somewhat smooth navigational skills. However, despite these attractions and the undeniable convenience the robots provide, I find myself wondering if this new addition to our campus was truly necessary. I’ll admit, it is pretty entertaining — in an oddly futuristic way — to watch a person have to stop in their tracks to let a robot pass them by on their way to class. However, might these bots really just be an indication of our ever-growing dependence on technology?
Many students seem to think so.
“To be honest, I like [the robots], but it makes me wonder at what point we will stop using technology to do things we are very capable of doing ourselves,” says sophomore Erin Donnan.
Is it possible that through the introduction of these robots, the university could inadvertently be encouraging students to become, simply put, lazier? Suddenly, it seems that a task as easy and natural as walking to pick up food could become too inconvenient for the average student.
Some students have even voiced concerns that the option of robot-delivered food could lead to isolation, feeding into a competitive academic environment in which there is suddenly not enough time in the day to take a break and grab a meal with friends.
“I feel like it takes out the community aspect of dining. Meals are an important way of connecting with your peers and taking a break; we already lose that so much on the days when you don’t want to go to the dining hall because you’re grinding for an exam, for example,” says sophomore Sabrina Takagishi. “It almost encourages students to feed into the negative energy to solely focus on academics.”
At the end of the day, I have no complaints regarding this exciting new technology, and I am certainly not against the idea of getting breakfast delivered to my doorstep. Admittedly, these robots will substantially increase convenience for our ever-busy student body. I simply wonder how necessary the robots really are.
Despite some backlash and mixed opinions from the Notre Dame community, “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from our students,” says Alberganti. “The additional convenience outweighs any concerns.”